As Quality Manager at KMC, the Danish-based food ingredients company, Marianne Dam is responsible for the maintenance and updating of KMC quality systems and certifications. Here, she explains how ISO 22000 is used and the many benefits it brings to food management systems.
With its production sites and headquarters in Denmark, KMC has grown from being a provider of potato starch and potato flakes to a company that also supplies special ingredients to customers around the world. Thanks to innovative food solutions – such as substituting common proteins used in dairy and confectionery with potato starch solutions – the company enables food manufacturers to make cheaper, healthier and less controversial products. As a result, KMC has enjoyed successful growth and, as the company’s Quality Manager, Marianne Dam says ISO 22000 plays an important role – indeed an essential one – in its future expansion.
ISOfocus: What does your company see as the main benefit of having food management systems in place such as ISO 22000?
Marianne Dam: KMC is an ingredients company and we deliver products to the global food market. We are dependent on having a reliable food management system in place – first of all, because of our responsibility to our customers (typically B2B) when food safety issues arise and, ultimately, because we owe it to our global end users. Our management system helps us to be safe, focused and efficient in our production set-up.
There are clear benefits to having a food management system certified by a third party. These certificates are the first valid evidence of the systems implemented in our company and many of our customers use them as an important part of their supplier approval process. We believe we could not manage our existing business without such recognition.
In general, our management system has given us the opportunity to gather internal expertise within the company with which to formalize procedures, i.e. for optimizing the training and education of all employees; implementing control of record management to ensure the right and most up-to-date information gets to the right people; and improving management’s role and communication with the rest of the organization.
These items have been the basis for our business’s development from supplier of commodities to purveyor of ingredients for food, pet food and livestock feed customers all over the world. It is interesting to note that today’s pet food and livestock feed industry now has the same high demands for raw materials as the food industry.
What do you think are the biggest challenges ahead in food safety and the corresponding management and certification systems?
The biggest challenge in the future of food safety is the insufficient understanding of the real product combined with the lack of confidence between buyer and supplier in today’s complex global market. Communication and the exchange of documentation and goods have become increasingly easy, so much so that many of our customers are demanding manuals that are valid for all raw materials, explaining what to do in case of an “incident”.
Unfortunately, as many companies have a huge variety of raw materials, it isn’t possible to collate detailed knowledge of each component. Although basic documentation and certification make sense, cooperation and partnership must be the way forward to maintain the focus on food safety, decent products and individual responsibility.
How can ISO 22000 and the Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) help to address these challenges?
The main advantage of ISO 22000 is that it is a general standard, so its principles can be used for all kinds of food/feed industries dependent on risk assessment thinking. It gives a company responsibility for handling its own production and products based on its own knowledge and experience. Of course, the whole system relies on appropriate documentation and analysis, and third-party auditing ensures that the company lives up to an acceptable level of quality for a modern food industry.
How do standards and the increasing demand for certification, documentation, audits, etc. affect a smaller player in the global food sector?
The demand for certification is becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. Today, customers expect the basics of product quality and food safety, along with sustainability and ethical trade. There are many standards with different kinds of “owners” and many customers have preferences, which makes it difficult to choose the best and/or the most comprehensive. While larger suppliers can decide for themselves which certifications they want to comply with, there are greater risks involved for small companies.
Pricing is a relevant issue here since somebody needs to cover the cost for the extra administration and documentation. This is an important area of focus for a smaller company. Ensuring business survival can mean daring to say to your customer “can we do this another way?”, or simply “no, thanks”.
What modifications/improvements would you like to see in ISO 22000 to make it more relevant for your busines?
ISO 22000 cannot stand alone due to the general demands from global food customers to have its certifications recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which maintains a scheme to benchmark food safety standards for manufacturers. Today, this can be solved by the opportunity to have an extra “layer” of good manufacturing practices related to food, resulting in the FSSC 22000 Food Safety System Certification, a framework for effectively managing your organization’s food safety responsibilities that is fully recognized by the GFSI. In the near future, the same opportunity will be there regarding livestock feed.
To maintain ISO 22000’s importance for the food industry, it would be fantastic to have similar appendices for sustainability and an ethical approach, resulting in a basic standard and a wide range of possibilities to design an integrated system for the company.
ISO has a huge advantage in being internationally known and, hopefully, the organization will take on the challenge and make it easier for more companies all over the world.